Public health, environmental and social determinants of health (PHE)

WHO releases country estimates on air pollution exposure and health impact

27 September 2016 | GENEVA – A new WHO air quality model confirms that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. Information is presented via interactive maps, highlighting areas within countries that exceed WHO limits.

Air pollution and health

Air pollution can occur anywhere. It occurs when the environment is contaminated by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Stoves in the home, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution.

Pollutants of major public health concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Both ambient (outdoor) and household (indoor) air pollution cause respiratory and other diseases, which can be fatal.

WHO leads Global Platform on Air Quality and Health

Severe air pollution in Anyang, China
V.T. Polywoda/Fickr

Air pollution is the largest single environmental health risk, estimated to kill 1 in 8 people globally, due to heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and cancer.

In 2014, WHO established a Global Platform on Air Quality and Health, bringing together international and national organizations to advance research and policy on outdoor and household air pollution. The Platform aims to strengthen the capacity to make global assessments of air pollution and its associated disease burden, as well as demonstrate any improvements in air quality and health achieved by mitigation strategies.

New report identifies four ways to reduce health risks from climate pollutants

22 October 2015 - A new WHO report highlights the urgent need to reduce emissions of black carbon, ozone and methane - as well as carbon dioxide – which all contribute to climate change. Black carbon, ozone and methane – frequently described as short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) - not only produce a strong global warming effect, they contribute significantly to the more than 7 million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.